Planning a Vacation? Here’s How to Make Sure You Don’t Bring Any Bed Bugs Home With You

If you’re heading to Paris anytime soon, these tips will probably come in handy.

Bed bugs like to travel, too.
Bed bugs like to travel, too. / dblight/E+/Getty Images

Bed bugs are currently running wild across Paris. If anything can wreck the bliss of a hard-earned, long-awaited French vacation, it’s a bed bug—or even just the fear that one might be lurking in your supposedly spotless hotel room or airplane seat, ready to ruin your brief, wondrous getaway.

In some ways, the myths that have spread as quickly as a bed bug infestation itself make the odious little insects seem worse than they are. They don’t carry diseases, they can’t fly, and they can be seen with the naked eye. But their resilience in the face of eradication is practically legendary; they’re even developing thicker exoskeletons to better resist insecticides.

So what can you do to prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking a ride home with you? Keep your dirty laundry from coming into contact with your hotel room bed or floor, Insider reports. (You might also consider doing laundry while on vacation.)

As University of Sheffield entomologist William Hentley told Science in 2017, bed bugs are attracted to the smell of humans, which is stronger in our dirty clothes. For his study, Hentley placed two bags of clothes—one clean, one dirty—in a hotel room and released a cage of bed bugs into the room to roam freely. After 96 hours, Hentley and his team found that about twice as many bed bugs had chosen the dirty clothes over the clean ones.

If you leave your suitcase open on the floor and your worn clothes strewn about the room, bed bugs can simply crawl in. So don’t underestimate the power of the luggage rack (or even bath tub); bed bugs can’t climb up metal legs, so it’s worth keeping your suitcase on top of it. To prevent them from sniffing out your dirty clothes in the first place, try storing your worn items in an airtight plastic bag. Also, since bed bugs can live for months without a meal according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, they won’t die just by being contained in your suitcase during the trip home; wash and dry your dirty clothes on high heat to kill them for good.

And because educating yourself on an issue is often the best defense against disaster, make sure you can recognize a bed bug if you see one and know how to check your hotel room for them in the first place.

A version of this story originally ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2023.